SAN FRANCISCO – In recent years, video games have been viewed negatively by the public eye. Outraged parents and conservative groups have attributed a rise in incidents of violence among teenagers to games simulating criminal behavior. State officials have denounced video gaming as a poor choice for a hobby—a cornerstone of the sedentary lifestyle—public health enemy number one. But gaming goes beyond fostering juvenile delinquency and contributing to childhood obesity.
Until August 28, EA Games and Origin are offering a game package—aptly named the Humble Bundle—to customers who may designate the price themselves. This offbeat business practice is hardly new. Radiohead made a splash in media headlines when it allowed fans to digitally download their 2007 album, “In Rainbows,” for an arbitrary sum of money—allowing some people to pay as little as a penny. The album—due to the band’s large core of die-hard fans willing to pay full retail price—still proved to be a profitable venture. Radiohead, moreover, already has an eccentric image that justifies this kind of publicity stunt. This draws into question, however, EA Games’ and Origin’s motive in providing eight popular titles—including “Mirror’s Edge” and “Battlefield,” which would normally sell for $215—at shifting returns.
It turns out that proceeds for this particular game bundle go to a number of reputable charities, ranging from the American Red Cross to Watsi. The latter organization harnesses the power of crowdfunding to raise medical funds for those most in need. With crowdfunding, a single contribution’s impact quickly accrues, making goals such as raising $300 to help a Cambodian girl fix her dislocated kneecap wholly realistic.
By demonstrating their support for global health, EA Games and Origin are utilizing their high profiles to raise awareness on serious social issues. Thus far, their fundraising bid has stirred up a social media frenzy and has been an overall success. To date, nearly $5.4 million have been raised for humanitarian organizations. A scoreboard for individual customers is also available to view, adding a competitive edge to the campaign. Perhaps it is high time to stop stigmatizing video games as the bane of society and to start associating them with social activism instead.
– Melrose Huang